Bazelak ready to provide veteran leadership

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | Duquesne's Libby Bazelak dribbles during a game at Davidson on Feb. 16, 2020. After playing in each of Duquesne's 96 games during her first three seasons, Bazelak was limited to eight games in 2020-21.

Luke Henne | Sports Editor

Nov. 4, 2021

After playing in just four games due to injury during the 2020-21 season, a campaign that was also ravaged by Covid-19, Libby Bazelak knew her senior year was not the one she wanted to go out on. 

“If it wasn’t for the Covid year, I may have redshirted last year anyways because I missed so many of the first half of the games,” Bazelak said. “To end my basketball career like that, it just felt super wrong with how much time and effort and love that I’ve put into the game. It just didn’t seem right ending it on that note.”

Bazelak, now a graduate student, is ready to begin her fifth season as a member of the Duquesne women’s basketball team. 

She took advantage of the opportunity to have an extra year of eligibility, and is set to return following recovery from a persistent knee injury that dates back to 2019.

“It’s been a long journey, been diagnosed with a few different things, but I’ve never really been back to the way that I used to play,” Bazelak said. “I’ve had two surgeries. I had my last surgery in April, and I actually recently just got cleared to play last Tuesday, so now I’m officially back. 

“I’ll be playing, but still, I don’t think I’m quite yet at 100%. We’ll see. It’s feeling a lot better, though.”

Across her four-year career with the Dukes so far, the native of Kettering, Ohio, has averaged 8.1 points per game and 27.6 minutes per game. Despite her return from injury, she knows she might be put back into the rotation on a regular basis right away.

“Last year, when I came back from my surgery and I started the season late, [Head] Coach [Dan] Burt kind of threw me in there a little bit slower,” Bazelak said. “This year, we’re dealing with a lot of injuries, so he may have to throw me in a little more than he would like, but I’m OK with that, especially the way that my knee is feeling.”

As a fifth-year student, she also expects to serve as a veteran and vocal leader for the team. 

“I think we really do need a leadership presence on the floor. I think we were missing that a lot last year, which helped a lot of the younger girls grow,” Bazelak said. “But I think having an upperclassman on the floor is going to help tremendously.”

After a two-game road trip that will take Duquesne to UCF (Nov. 9) and Tulsa (Nov. 11), the Dukes will host Lafayette on Nov. 14 at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in what will be the team’s first full-capacity home game in three seasons.

Bazelak knows that playing in front of an actual audience will make all the difference, especially for the younger players.

“It’s a lot easier to keep that motivation and keep runs going when you have fans behind you and people cheering you on,” Bazelak said. “I think me, Amanda [Kalin] Laia [Sole] and Halle [Bovell] are the only four that have actually played in an actual home gym. For our underclassmen to finally have a place to call home and to play in that arena see their parents in the stands I think it’s gonna help our team a lot.”

Bazelak comes from a family of standout college athletes. Maddie (her older sister) played volleyball at Duquesne, while Connor (her younger brother) is currently the starting quarterback at Missouri.

She attributes the family’s string of athletic success to a strong parental support system.

“We grew up centered around athletics. My dad [Len] played in college [basketball at Dartmouth], so he was always tough on us,” Bazelak said. “Him and my mom are the reasons that we are the athletes that we are today. Without him, we wouldn’t be playing college athletics.”

Bazelak is also grateful for her parents’ willingness to get to as many games as possible.

“My parents are crazy with their traveling and their schedule now with me starting basketball,” Bazelak said. “They come to literally all of our games.

“I’m super thankful.”